Delaware Distracted Driving Laws
- Handheld ban for all drivers (Primary Law).
- Ban on all cell phone use (handheld and hands-free) for bus drivers (Primary Law).
- Ban on all cell phone (handheld and hands-free) for novice drivers (Primary Law).
- Ban on texting for all drivers (Primary Law).
Delaware’s Texting While Driving Stand
Texting while driving has been banned in the state of Delaware since 2010. Included in the current ban are the use of hand-held cell phones, PDAs, laptops, pagers, and video games while driving. All of this is largely common sense for any driver with even limited experience. The law is even more restrictive for those who are just learning how to drive a car. For these drivers, any use of a cell phone while behind the wheel is prohibited, as well as those who drive buses and other forms of mass transit.
Since this law has been in effect, over 9,000 tickets for violations have been issued with over 300 issued in only one day. However, the majority of these citations may have been a result of the general ignorance of the details of the law on the part of the general population.
The current legislation allows for the use of hands-free devices while driving. This appears to make sense as the driver is allowed to use a cell phone while driving as long as both of their hands are on the steering wheel and therefore, allegedly, in control of the vehicle. However, this logic does not take distracted driving into account, as these drivers are still taking their minds off the task at hand.
Another allowance of this bill permits numbers to be entered into a cell phone while driving as long as the call has not been placed, as well as exempting farm vehicle use from the entire legislation. This means any farmer or person using a farm vehicle may have a full conversation on a hand-held device while driving and still be in complete compliance with the law. Farm vehicles have been known to travel down passenger roads. If they were to cause an accident, the operator of that vehicle would not be liable for any fines as a result of the use of his/her phone at the time. The same applies to truck drivers traveling the state’s open highways, as well as using inner-city traffic areas. Should a trucker be involved in an accident stemming from distracted driving, they could only be cited for reckless driving. Critics of the current legislation feel these are examples of loopholes that need to be corrected in any new legislation that may be introduced this year.
The concept of distraction was not taken into account (or allowed) because the distraction could be extended to drinking coffee or listening to the radio while driving. Since banning those activities would not likely pass the House or Senate, the distraction concept was removed from the legislation so the bill could become law. The problem is that the state police were able to attribute over 250 traffic accidents in 2010 to distracted driving as a result of cell phone use, yet the same could not be said of drinking coffee or listening to the radio.
The issue has gained enough national attention that every year starting in 2011, will see a National Distracted Driver Month designated in April. The concept of state legislatures allowing state police to invoke this awareness is beginning to spread across the nation with California taking up the cause in 2012.
As the Delaware House and Senate return to work, legislation for distracted driving has yet to be placed in the voting queue. Those in favor of distracted driving legislation feel this needs to be rectified so a bill can be placed on the agenda, closing the loopholes in the current legislation that would isolate the issue of distracted driving by virtue of the use of hands-free devices from the other activities mentioned.
For any residents of Delaware who may wish to view updates to this legislation, they may access the state website for notices, the state police website for information on the bill, or contact their local representative. A proactive population is needed to ensure passage of this bill and the only way to achieve that status is to be informed about the progress of the bill itself. Residents should contact their representatives to remind them of their position on this issue to ensure that it proceeds through the chambers to the floor for a vote.